Saturday, May 30, 2009

Half Gone, Half to Go

I have been, as they say, a busy little bee since arriving in Philadelphia. I can't believe a week and a half has passed and that the next week and a half seems like it will end tomorrow. I need more time!

A few observations in a numbered list for ease of reference, but first a happy shout-out to my dear roomates Katie and Martin who welcomed their son Jacob Leo Vanrijn on Tuesday, May 26. I can't wait to get home and integrate myself into baby living for a few months. Congratulations!

1) Cheap Goods

I forgot how cheap everything is here. For example: two croissants and an iced coffee at a fancy bakery cost $5. FIVE DOLLARS! In Seattle, one anemic croissant will set you back $4 on its own. And, speaking of iced coffee: hello genius. Here, they brew coffee, chill it, and serve it over ice. No need to get espresso which will run you the price of a latte, the standard price for one of these babies (or any hot drip coffee) is $1-$2. I have had an iced coffee or an iced tea almost every day and it's set me back $10 total. It's so ubiquitous many places even carry DECAF iced coffee. Awesome.

Back to cheap: two pair of shoes and a giant purse cost $60; a fancy dinner for 3 with a bottle of wine was $70 including tip; 3 books (Rosencrants and Guilderstern are Dead; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; The Ethnograhpy of Communication) were $3 in a great used book store; a cab ride from one end of town to the other was $8. I'm far from cheap but I've always been a very specific spender and will splurge pretty much only on food. Why buy $300 shoes, for instance, when I can wait a pair of $14.99 sandals for years and they look just as cute? I had forgotten just how much Philadelphia suits this particular trait of mine: cheap yet hip fashion and great food from $1-$100.

2) Walk It Out

Oh walking, how I've missed you. Staying 10 blocks from the office has afforded me an opportunity to walk distinct routes each day, looking up all the while at the brick row houses and the leafy greens not yet wilted from the summer heat. There are two lilacs I pass every day and I loll in the gentle smell a moment before continuing on. I love walking everywhere I need to go, carrying a big bag and an iced tea and feeling generally thrilled with life. The downside to all this foot-based activity is that I'm a lug in Seattle and, even though I brought my 'comfortable' shoes, my feet are not happy. At least I'm summer-izing them early, an important if not ugly first step of sandal season.

3) Trading Weather

I came to Philadelphia this time of year with the hopes of having that nice late spring warmth followed by cooler evenings. It started well and this weekend is supposed to perk up again but this week has been entirely Seattle-esque weather. Drizzly rain, cool breezy days, NO THUNDERSTORMS. Not that I don't love the rain: tonight I went to my boss Jonathan's house and walking around his huge yard with drops falling from wide leaves was peaceful and smelled like spring, and then walked the 10 blocks from the train station at a leisurely, umbrella-ed pace (thank heavens I included it as a last minute suitcase addition). Meanwhile it's 92 and humid in Seattle. Given my choice I'll take the Seattle weather but I hope I'm not missing the only good days allotted for this year.

4) Trends that should not be borrowed

There is a new trend here and I think this will be especially amusing to my friends Robyn and Matt with whom I experienced the original, and anyone else who has traveled Peru (or any South American country, really) and eaten Chinese food. The Chinese food/fried rice in particular in Peru is called chifa, and one day when Robyn was hungry for something not Latino we popped into a place that was recommended to us by the smoothie lady. Having already been disappointed by Chinese food in Chile and Bolivia I was happy to pass on ordering my own dish, but what came to Robyn far surpassed anything else trying to pose as Chinese food on that otherwise great continent. I wish I could remember exactly what was so bad about it, but all I recall is the three of us exchanging one horrified and hilarious glance after another as we each took bites. Imagine my outburst of laughter when someone told me there is a hot new joint in Philadelphia called "Chifa" and serves - wait for it - PERUVIAN STYLE CHINESE FOOD. I found myself at the Las Vegas Lounge across from this new restaurant and was so tempted to go in but I managed to restrain myself because I didn't want to be insulting. Maybe they have a good thing going on, but I can guarantee you that if they do, it's only because their food is nothing, NOTHING like what Peruvians serve and call Chinese food.

5) Quick and Dirty Review

I've done so many fun things since getting here: met up with Annie and Will, out of town friends who happened to be in Phila for a brief window; went to see my co-workers' band; attended a gourmet cookout; played street wiffle ball; indulged at a Greek festival; spent lots of quality time with Adam and Lydia (including Lydia's Bob and Barbara's birthday party - happy birthday!) and as much as possible with other friends (special props to Matt for making the most effort); gone shopping and in general eaten a lot of really delicious food. I can't wait to pack more into the next week and some. I was supposed to go to Washington, D.C. this weekend to meet the other Elizabeth and visit Evan, Kristen, and Stacey, but the thought of leaving Philadelphia for my last full weekend was giving me a panic attack so instead I talked Elizabeth into coming here for the weekend - hooray! There's talk of a brewery tour and a trip to Maryland to eat crab, not to mention dancing.

That's it for now but I've already started another blog entry so don't go too far. . .

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back in Philadelphia

Since this marks the first time I've left the city limits of Seattle since getting back in December (sans my brief trip to Orcas island, one I hope to repeat late this summer) it seems appropriate to post the first blog since then, too. I checked Google Analytics and I somehow still manage 6 hits a day on this site - people must be googling weird phrases like 'eating guinea pig' or the names of friends I've mentioned directly. But, if you do still check the blog regularly please leave me a comment so I know who has been keeping the very old faith that I would start writing again!

I arrived in Philadelphia yesterday at about 7:30. My friends Katharine and Ben picked me up at the airport and we went straight to Pat's, King of Steaks. I figured I should get the cheesesteak eating out of the way first thing. We waited in line forever - shoulda gone to Tony' Lukes! - and I have to say, although it was delicious for memory's sake it's certainly not an appetizing sandwich and it wreaked havoc on my internals. Next time I'll get a chicken steak from Ishkabibble's. But it was covered in wiz and filled my belly and we go to sit outside to eat it amid that wondrous group of citizens I like to call Nor'easters.

By the time I got to Adam and Lydia's apartment last night it was time to go out for Claire's 30th birthday party at Cuba Libre in Old City, possibly my favorite Cuban joint ever. Talk about a chic, sexy interior. I got ready in about 12 minutes (looking pretty fly if I do say so myself) and we were out the door and dancing our petoots off in no time. Old City is such a trip! I remember how much I love the bustle and antics of this place.

My feet hurt a little today but not enough to keep me from walking the city. After a late breakfast with Adam and Lydia - perfect Eggs Benedict, a hard dish to find - I met up with Matt and we tooled around the city.

I love how warm the air is here! Not like Seattle where it's 70 in the sun, 50 in the shade. The nights are warm, too. I got here just in time for thunderstorm season, possibly my favorite spring weather cycle. It was about 85 today with a refreshing and persistent wind that blew Matt and I around West Philadelphia, stopping into my favorite used bookstore called The Last Word, trying on cotton dresses at the original Urban Outfitters, and enjoying a student-free Penn campus. We decided to get a slice and happened to catch the 10th and 11th innings of a great Phillies at Yankees match-up that ended in Phila's favor.

Cleveland was not as fortunate and bit it against Orlando (again, apparently) but I went to the bar to watch just for the social aspect. I think it was the first NBA game I've ever sat all the way through, actually. Old friends Mike Millar and Chris came out and then we ran into another friend Jared while there. This city is so small and it's one of the things I love about it. There's also so much energy and I'm really digging being back. It's the kick in the pants I need to get the summer started on the right foot.

I'll write more as I accumulate other fun Philadelphia stories. One last bit of hilarity before I go: this afternoon as Katharine and I sat on their semi-secluded porch with my back almost against the wall, I got absolutely pegged out of NOWHERE by a giant water balloon. Neither of us saw it coming until it went SPLAT all over my head and neck. Once I recovered from the initial shock I got in my obligatory "hey you kids, that wasn't very nice!" as they booked it down the block (they were maybe 12), but I had to hand it to them that it was a money shot. It was the first time I've ever been targeted by strangers for a water balloon fly-by, and I sort of enjoyed the novelty of young kids still pulling the same old bratty pranks.